Exercise better than crosswords for our aging brains

jogging can make your memory last longer

Here at Overland Park Boot Camp we were impressed to hear that doing regular exercise could increase the size of your brain.

A new study showed that people who continued to exercise later in life had larger brains that those who preferred to spend their time doing crossword puzzles or other sedentary activities.

Conducted at Edinburgh University in Scotland and published in the highly-respected Neurology journal, researchers for the study scanned the brains of 700 pensioners aged 73. All had received a similar scan three years previously at the age of 70 when they were also asked about their physical activities.

The latest scans showed that those who did the most physical activity had more gray and normal white matter in the brain. In addition, it was also claimed by the results of the survey that exercise seems to help in the prevention of white matter lesions (which can lead to memory loss).

“It is pretty clear that exercise is one of the most potent things we can do to protect our brain as we age,” said University of Pittsburgh exercise and aging researcher Kirk Erickson, PhD.

The American researcher presented findings of a similar study carried out by his team earlier this year.

Again, employing the use of MRI scans, Erickson scanned the brains of 120 elderly people, all of whom considered themselves inactive. He then asked 60 of them to walk for 45 minutes three times a week. The other 60 he devised stretching exercises for.

Exactly a year later he did another MRI scan which showed that the walking half of the study had a larger hippocampus than the stretching group. Not only that, but the hippocampus had actually shrunk in the stretching group. The hippocampus is the part of the brain related to memory.

Erickson told the site WebMD: “The old view is that as we get older our brains become less malleable and less able to change. The new view is that it remains plastic even very late in life. We were able to show positive change after just one year of moderate-intensity physical activity.”

Meanwhile, here’s the other mental benefits of exercise:

  • It reduces stress which can lead to depression
  • It can give you a natural ‘high’ (again helping fight against depression)
  • It improves your sleep meaning you have more brain clarity next day (ie you can think straight)
  • Exercising results in blood flow to the brain which can help with cognitive thinking and multi-tasking

Here at Overland Park Boot Camp we’re pretty impressed at the findings from both studies. Jog anyone?

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